Keswick Theology Heresy Reigns at Baptist College of Ministry and Falls Baptist Church
Updated: Nov 26, 2022
Baptist College of Ministry (BCM) is a ministry administered out of Falls Baptist Church of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, an independent fundamental baptist church. The church and school largely focus on Keswick/ Revivalism theology in their ministry. This corrupted and false theology is also known by other names such as Victorious Life, Crucifed Life, Higher Life, Deeper Life, Christ Life. See here on A Warning on Keswick Theology and Why It‘s So Dangerous.
Consider the following points of heresy, Keswick theological heresy and other doctrinal and practical reasons, to dissociate and separate from the likes of this school.
1. A personal acquaintance who not only attended the school but was also an academic member for a number of years, informed me, in response to my inquiry as to whether Keswick was being taught there: "Keswick is extremely, extremely influential there." In fact, he said "I would say that Keswick is the heart and soul of Falls Baptist Church and Baptist College of Ministry, both in the positive aspects of the theology and in the negative aspects of it." He also shared that when he had asked the president of the school if seminary students or even staff members could read and comment on his essay which critiqued Keswick theology, he was told that they didn't want that to happen. He said he has "never heard a single person or single error of any prominent Keswick leader plainly and clearly exposed or warned about, ever." Thats a good and clear testimony of the heresy that reigns supreme there, and the only thing I would add is personally I do not believe there is a single positive thing about Keswick theology. The reason for that is because I believe the entire foundation is erroneous, sanctification is completely derailed which I believe to be due to the false salvation that it rides upon; everything is tainted with this heresy and poison. That leads me to the next point on salvation.
2. Most critically is the false gospel/ salvation that is taught and practiced there, which is one of easy-believism and quick-prayerism, one that rejects true Biblical repentance (if it is mentioned at all, it is redefined and applied as a change of mind synonymous with faith), and a rejection of Christ’s Lordship for salvation. Repentance is rarely ever mentioned, never exposited and the concept of true biblical repentance is entirely absent. As is the Lordship of Jesus Christ for salvation. In the two most critical areas, the gospel is false because of the false faith and “Jesus” is false is because He is not the God of the Bible. In this they transgress 2 Cor 11:4 and Gal 1:6-9. And all this dovetails with Keswick heresy with its unscriptural sanctification. Many Keswick purveyors over the last 150 years, have rejected the true gospel.
A specific church my family and I attended and ministered at for half a decade had a number of people invested into Keswick theology and this College/Church. They would attend as many conferences as they possibly could, and some even enrolling in the school degree or certificate programs, and some partaking in their "evangelizing" with their Cola Clash "evangelist team." What never failed was the new and corrupted repentance/gospel and sanctification that they would return with. One man who would end up as a missionary in Cameroon under a Keswick-guided missionary there, severely perverted and mutilated the true gospel based upon what he had heard and been taught at one of the conferences. It was akin to a butcher chopping up meat in a butcher shop.
Sadly I have personally witnessed many false professions and false teachers masquerading as true teachers due to this false gospel, some of which were missionaries, pastors and deacons, and naturally they cling to the heretical Keswick theology like a pig to his mire. Every church where Keswick heresy is embraced one finds a large portion of the congregation unsaved, people who have no true biblical testimony of salvation and lack Biblical fruit and evidence. And frequently it is heard by people attending or promoting the school who are also heavily Keswick, that one cannot say that people who are saved will actually always change. These same people cannot even define and describe repentance correctly and abhor it its presence in a testimony of salvation. This is extremely concerning and reflective of unsaved professors. Massive amounts of “conversions” are reported by the students in their “evangelistic” zeal, but if all the professions of conversion as recorded at testimony time in chapel would all came to church, the church would be thousands upon thousands of people larger than it is. This is the pattern across many if not all revivalistic IFB churches that embrace this false gospel of easy believism, quick prayerism, no repentance and no Lordship of Christ. BCM students go on missions trips and report thousands of people "saved" over several weeks (that is, they prayed the sinner's prayer with them—i.e. easy believism, aka "decisionism" which is plain heresy, see here for further reading: Does the Bible Describe Salvation as Easy? and Is Salvation Received by Asking for the Gift?), but missionaries who are stationed there don't report their churches growing by these numbers after the few weeks of the missions trip. Of course this inflated numbers game is the cause of a false gospel which makes those poor sinners two fold children of hell. Which then consequently means, these are wolves in sheep’s clothing propagating heresy to inflate their own ego. There is a reason why no evangelistic tract this school and church publishes will tell the lost to "turn from their sins" and many do not say anything about repentance at all, and when they do, it is corrupted and perverted to simply a "change of mind" that may or may not result in anything. Even if we took away all the dangerous Keswick issues, these facts pointed out now are more than enough reason to dissociate from Falls Baptist Church and BCM. Nothing is more dangerous than a false gospel, and a repentant-less gospel is most certainly a false gospel (Gal 1:6-9; cf. Lk 24:44-48; Ac 20:21, 24; Mk 1:1-5). Repentance is a Major Element of the Gospel and Must Always Be Preached, Including Its Description.
John Van Gelderen, who is closely associated with the school as an evangelist (his brother Wayne is the President of the College and pastor of the Church, and his brother Jim is Vice President) teaches that repentance and faith are perfectly synonymous:
"if you properly explain repentance, you are explaining faith whether you use the term or not. Or if you properly explain believing in Jesus, you are explaining repentance whether you use the term or not (like Jesus did with Nicodemus in John 3)." (shared with me personally in an email).
In the 8th chapter of his book The Ministry of the Evangelist: A Study of the Evangelist, the Evangel, and Evangelism, he writes:
"The point is that when believing on Jesus is properly explained, then the concept of repentance is also being explained, even though the word may not be used. Conversely, when repentance is properly explained, then the concept of believing on Jesus is being explained as well, even though the terminology may not be used." (p. 200).
This corresponds with what he wrote to me in the email. He is a very confused man. These terms have nothing in common, besides the fact they're both required for salvation. But worse than that, according to God's Word, this is heresy, and represents a false gospel, which means he is a false teacher (2 Pet 2:1). Van Gelderen also rejects repentance meaning a turning from all sin, and rather embraces the heresy that its a turning from unbelief to belief. In other words, a "change of mind" only repentance, which is what he religiously preaches. Read me Debunking False Arguments of the False “Change of Mind” Repentance Position and Repentance is Not Just a Change of Mind.
Click also on the following links to learn more about True Repentance and why Lordship Salvation is the Only Salvation.
3. In the BCMs assigned texts the following classic Keswick books are used: "Five Views of Sanctification" by John R. McQuilken and "So Great A Salvation" by Steve Barabas. You can read a thorough review of the latter, here: http://faithsaves.net/keswick-theology/ (an excellent thesis by the way on Keswick Theology). Both books are heavy pushers of Keswick heresy.
4. Sermons are heavily influenced by Keswick theology. Consider "The Futility of Struggle Theology" preached on Jan 07, 2015 by Phil Prettyman a staunch Keswick purveyor and supporter, which was a random sermon that I picked to listen through, one that is literally a mouth piece for classic Keswick theology. In this sermon the Keswick heretics Watchman Nee, Ian Thomas and Charles Trumbull are quoted positively, and classic Keswick doctrine is consistently in the text. The entire sermon is theologically wrong and unscriptural. As is typical among Keswick purveyors, the speaker twists a passage on justification (1 Cor. 15:57), into sanctification, a very common practice amongst Keswick purveyors (it is the passage that follows, v. 58, that refers to sanctification). The entire sermon is taught from a faulty foundation, the Keswick foundation. Demanding of God, rather than asking of God (a Charles Trumbull teaching). Just do nothing and you will have all the victory, a kind of Quaker quietism. Unscripturally teaching against "struggle theology,” while ignoring the very next passage. In this context he quoted Charles Trumbull (with what appeared to come across as the same or nearly the same authority as Gods Word), that the teaching of "what we do for God, not what God does for us" is the most dangerous heresy of the day, even more dangerous than "Christian Science, The watchtower society, and Eastern Mysticism.” Wow. How terribly Scripturally ignorant. Again, the very next verse (which he ironically quoted in the beginning of his sermon but must have not understood) reveals his bewildering ignorance to the Scriptures:
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Cor. 15:58).
He continues on with further heretical quotes from the Keswick heretic Trumbull like "the secret to victory is not praying but praising, not asking but thanking.” Since the speaker can't find any Scriptural support for his unscriptural doctrine, he just repeats the same things over and over like a broken record about "victory.” He also says he once had found it difficult to clearly see whether JW friends were saved or not and it had came down to the "acid test” — "there struggle in salvation"! U.n.b.e.l.i.e.v.a.b.l.e. There are tons of reasons why the JW’s are plainly unsaved, such as their reject of the Trinity and the deity of Christ, their embracement of works salvation, amongst hundreds of further reasons. Anyone that has such a struggle to differentiate between the truth and error way out in left field somewhere, does not know the truth.
This is an exceedingly dangerous sermon that will open up the simple listeners to "angels of light" (2 Cor 11:12-15) that aren't of God but Satan. Sadly this sermon was taught at their college conference, so lots of heretical influence on the young impressionable minds.
5. Dr. Wayne Van Gelderen, the pastor of the church and president of the college, frequently gives out copies of Hannah W. Smith's “The Secret of a Happy Life", and the book has even been recommended from the pulpit at holiness conferences held their annually. Mrs. Smith was an unsaved demon-possessed apostate loaded with tons of false teachings and to recommend her books or her teachings from any venue is grossly unscriptural and the propagating of evil and revealing of someone that is absent of spiritual discernment, something all saved people come with (1 Cor 2:11-16). Read here for further info on Smith: Beware of the False Teacher, Hannah Whitall Smith.
6. Jim Van Gelderen positively quotes a number of Keswick heretics in an article, including Evan Hopkins, Handley Moule, Griffith Thomas, and just like these individuals teaches the unscriptural Keswick doctrine on sanctification, while twisting and misapplying Scripture. One example of how Scripture is wrested (2 Pet. 3:16-17) to fit Keswick agenda, Jim teaches that Gal. 3:2-5 is reflective of sanctification, whereas it most certainly is not; it is applicable only to justification. He also says that the emphasis of Scripture is on sanctification by faith, falsely using Col. 2:6 as support. This is exactly what his brothers believe, and Keswick in general, but it's definitely not true. Yes the "just live by faith" (Rom 1:17) but "faith without works is dead" (Jam 2:20). True faith works, because it obeys, for obedience to Gods Word is the hallmark of a true believer (Jn 14:23-24: 1 Jn 2:3-5). It is one of the purposes for God saving us:
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Eph 2:10)
It is scary what these heretics do with passages of Scripture from God's Holy Book. Where is the fear of the Lord? That also is denied and rejected or corrupted, which makes sense since fear of the Lord is connected with repentance.
7. In 2011, almost an entire holiness conference (“Enthroned Christ”) at Falls Baptist Church was designed around the "Throne Seat Power" concept of John MacMillan, while at the same time highly promoting MacMillan. That isn't man-centredness at all. This hugely ungodly error teaches that believers have equal access to Christs throne as Christ Himself, and are even sitting on the throne with Christ! In the conference welcoming letter, the host writes:
"Christ is crucified, buried, risen, ascended, enthroned—exalted! Amazingly, every believer is "in Christ". Therefore every believer is identified with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection and throne seat." (John Van Gelderen, conference host Falls Baptist Church, p. 3).
"Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . sits at the Fathers right hand with all authority and all ability to reach the world. AND WE ARE SEATED WITH HIM!" (Wayne Van Gelderen Jr., pastor Falls Baptist Church , p. 5 -- CAPs emphasis original).
Consider some further quotes from this nearly two hundred page conference booklet.
"Are you exercising the authority of your throne seat?" (p. 17).
"In Christ we are as far above Satan as Christ is." (p. 21).
Concerning the throne power, "It was here that authority was re-delegated, to man—the church—the body of the head." (p. 21).
Just below this quote on the same page, John A MacMillan, The Authority of the Believer is mentioned. Additionally on this same page we find a quote from The Open Bible which is a New King James Version, and a Bible loaded with gross error and false interpretation. (Obviously their stance on the KJV is hog wash). The quote:
"The same power which God worked in Christ to raise Him and exalt Him is available to us so that if, what we face is no bigger than raising Christ from the dead, and exalting Him far above the enemy—victory is secure." (p. 21).
Under the subsection "Comprehend the Privileges of Authority (Ephesians 1:19)" (p. 21) and "Prerequisites" (p. 22) to this "Authority" we read "Warring from the Throne: Accessing a throne seat through the authoritative power of the Enthroned Christ" (p. 22). [bold emphasis is mine]. The passage from Eph. 1:19, used to support this erroneous and blasphemous teaching, is completely twisted out of its context. Practically every passage of Scripture is twisted wrested.
The conference also included the recounting of an exorcism and utilizing the techniques of MacMillan by conversing with and getting the names of sundry demons, by speaker Rick Savage (message, “Recognizing the Hiss of the Serpent”), himself the pastor of a different fundamental Baptist church that has its own Bible college. You can read some brief notes on the "Throne Seat Power" Keswick teaching and MacMillan here: http://faithsaves.net/john-a-macmillan-authority-believer/. Everything at Falls Baptist Church and BCM is approved by Dr. Wayne Van Gelderen. Therefore he fully endorses and supports this teaching and all other Keswick teachings held there. Furthermore, we see by specific quotes here that he also propagates these erroneous and unbiblical doctrines. From such a conference pastors and missionaries from around North America, the vast majority of them entirely ignorant of the theology of the man whose ideas they have imbibed, returned to their churches to spread MacMillan’s ideas and books with their misinterpretations of Scripture, corrupt demonology, and charismatic philosophies into large numbers of separatist Baptist congregations.
8. It appears like a second "baptism of the Spirit" was taught at that same Enthroned Christ Conference in 2011 at Falls Baptist Church (FBC), in their Conference booklet and notes (p. 28) which of course goes along with Falls Baptist Church teaching here that "the baptism of the Spirit is when the believer is baptized into Christ . . . and with the Spirit" which "occurs as a matter of fact at the moment of salvation. However, this is accessed as a matter of function through the surrender of faith." They are playing here with words. Accessed means another “baptism of the Spirit.” A testimony of Oswald Chambers is shared on this same page, how, after being influenced by F. B. Meyer (a staunch Keswick heretic and severe apostate under the section "Keswick’s Roots and History, Briefly") he had "asked God simply and definitely for baptism of the Holy Spirit (whatever that meant)" (p. 28) and this is post-conversion. He didn’t even know what it meant, but because of Meyers influence, he wanted it. He didn’t have everything that he needed in the Christian life apparently, he was missing something. The testimony that follows after asking “for baptism of the Holy Spirit” is strange and unscriptural and quite possibly even demonic. He describes how over the next four years it was only by “the overruling grace of God and kindness of friends kept me out of an asylum" and that he "had no conscious communion with Him." I don’t think out was the “overruling grace of God” that “kept [him] out of an asylum" but maybe the “kindness of friends,” since he doesn’t appear to actually understand the grace of God.
He continues "The Bible was the dullest, most uninteresting book in existence and the sense of depravity – the vileness and bad motives of my nature was terrific." Friends, is this of God or the devil? Where was working of the indwelling Holy Spirit in all this?! Whatever "baptized" him was surely NOT of God! This is so unscriptural yet given as a testimony in a positive light and then compared to Christ' testimony how after He was baptized with the Spirit, He was driven into the wilderness to fast and pray and suffer temptation at the hands of the devil. How this compares is beyond me and in actuality reveals how corrupted and demonic many aspects of the Keswick movement truly are. Unregenerate men playing church but it’s blasphemy. Allegedly after "the baptism of the Spirit . . . is accessed as a matter of function", this is when the (unscriptural and demonic?) testing starts: "It is at the beginning of this "access by faith" process that God allows a real testing to take place, although other tests will come." It is after this point that the FBC approved writer goes into Christ' baptism and testing in the wilderness, which is followed by Chambers testimony.
Consider how this whole point started (before the author delves into this testimony of Chambers), all of which is under the subheading ("3. The danger point): The danger point is at the time of surrender, for this is when the believer opens himself up to the supernatural or spiritual realm." Wow. First of all that is false surrender because they never surrendered to Jesus as Lord when they were allegedly “converted.” Secondly, what exactly are they opening themselves up to? I think demonic spirits which is why it is so “dangerous.” Apparently, "God uses this testing to prepare his servants for future service." (p. 29)—which is written right after Chambers testimony, and again a similar disclaimer is given "Although this testing may vary between individuals, it is important to be aware of "the danger point" and know how to discern the spirits." (p. 29). Wow, unbelievable! It is quite obvious that they are entering a spiritual realm of evil and demonic spirits. Talk about placing individuals into incredibly dangerous positions! Where may I wonder exactly is the "danger point,” since the Bible never even comes close to exhorting Christians to mess around with the spiritual world of demons? (I am convinced that the true "danger point" in all this is the whole lot of Keswick teachings). If a true believer has to fear opening himself up to evil spirits, then he ought not to participate in whatever that is (see 1 Pet. 5:8-9). Here we also see also the Keswick belief that a believer can be possessed with the devil (more on this further below). What they fail to unfortunately see or understand and definitely don’t warn about, is that a number of the influential Keswick voices were demon possessed themselves and obviously never truly born again! Ironically, Evan Roberts and Jessie Penn-Lewis are both quoted numerous times in this booklet and conference, and both are clear examples of false "Christians" who were demon possessed (self-professed). Although not everything in this conference booklet is bad (thankfully the Baptist Bible doctrines mitigate some of these destructive teachings), FBC nevertheless is promoting absolute terrible, unscriptural and even demonic doctrines!
9. Heretics are warmly embraced, frequently quoted, recommended and even learned from. As mentioned already, Hannah W. Smith's (“The Secret of a Happy Life”), Evan Roberts and Jessie Penn-Lewis, F.B. Meyer, Watchman Nee and many others.
10. Demon possession of Christians has been taught by visiting speakers and maybe even faculty staff, which fits with certain elements of Keswick theology, though it is entirely unBiblical. This is not a foreign concept at all in the Keswick circle, considering that Hannah Whittal Smith (and husband likely), Jessie Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts and others were demon possessed according to their own testimony and these individuals happen to also be frequently quoted by BCM and Falls Baptist Church. The Keswick teaching that believers can be demon possessed is promoted in Penn-Lewis's book War on the Saints, a Keswick classic on demonology. On p. 19 of the booklet we read "The present dominion is manifested in the spiritual realm, not the physical realm. However, where the spiritual realm interpenetrates with the physical realm, there will be ramifications in the physician realm as in the casting out of demons from physical bodies." This is no indication at all that this is referring to the lost. Rather, we know based on those present, that at this conference (and since) there were men who taught that a true believer could be demon possessed. A girl that attended the school from a church we used to attend, spoke of how they were taught that Christians can be demon-possessed, even having to write a paper on the subject.
11. Another very grievous and far-reaching error, which is also common in Keswick theology, and found in the Enthroned Christ conference booklet, is the belief that a Christian is either serving the devil or God, no in between. Everything is categorized as either of God or of the devil. This is simply unbiblical. Although a believer can be deceived by the devil, he never serves the devil nor is even touched by the devil (1 Jn 5:18). Every born again Christian is always a servant of God. It's the "flesh" component (according to the Scriptures) that is left out of many of their teachings. They correlate "the flesh" with "the devil", whereas Gods Word does not. Although the flesh like the rest of the person can be influenced by the devil, it is still its own entity under the control of that person. It is our flesh that leads us to sin (Jam. 1).
12. They do not take a stand for the KJV Bible and the Received Text it hails from. They do hold to the KJV and perfect preservation position. They hold to the position what is called the “Majority Text,” which doesn’t regard this as an important issue, certainly not one where the critical text advocates would be separated from. Some modern Bible versions are not a big deal.
13. They are ecumenical and at best, soft separatists. We note this in their yoking with deeply compromised and heretical men like Paul Chappell and R.B. Oulette. In the past Lancaster/ Westcoast faculty have taught at BCM and Wayne Van Gelderen Jr. has spoken at their annual leadership conference. Wayne Van Gelderen Jr. is also a board member of the ecumenical, unscriptural and heretical Fundamental Baptist Fellowship (http://fbfi.org/board-executive/). Jim Berg of the now heretical Bob Jones University (BJU) has taught courses at BCM. BJU has seriously strayed from the path of righteousness into the paths of apostasy.
Flee from these heretical institutions that pervert and corrupt the scriptures to fulfill their own agenda.
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Rom 16:17-18).